The KissFAQ


Back In The Solo Album Groove With Dennis Woloch

Art director details the creative process for the iconic solo album portraits, his goal to make them look "classic and timeless," working with artist Eraldo Carugati, and more.

Interview by Tim McPhate

KissFAQ: Dennis, 1978 was a big year for KISS. There was "Double Platinum" in April, the KISS solo albums in September, followed by "KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park" in October. When do you first remember learning that KISS were doing solo albums?
Dennis Woloch: Well, I don't remember any details or specifics about it. It probably just happened the way everything else happened. Somebody walked into the art department or they summoned me into Howard Marks' office and they let me in on what the latest project is. As soon as they knew they were going to do the solo albums, they were planning the marketing deal that they came up with. They would all be released on exactly the same day, which was an unusual thing for any group. No group had ever done that before, or since.

Dennis Woloch and KISS in 1979
Courtesy of Dennis Woloch

KF: That's right.
DW: It was just a one-time thing. Pretty ingenious marketing really. They even went so far as to come up with a little shopping bag. Remember that shopping bag?

KF: I do. I have one (laughs).
DW: Right, right. So if you went to Sam Goody and bought all four of them at the same time, they'd put them all in there. That was the idea. The bag had all four of the albums printed on it. It was a pretty cool marketing deal.

KF: It was certainly an unprecedented campaign. As you alluded to, no one had ever done something like this before. Do you remember thinking that the ante for the artwork needed to be upped accordingly?
DW: There's no question about it. I thought that this was the most important KISS-related project to date. My immediate goal that I set for myself was to try to make them as classic and timeless as possible. I didn't want these things to look dated. I actually never want anything I do to wind up looking dated. I try to avoid anything trendy because if you do something trendy, it looks great now and it looks terrible tomorrow. It's just always like that. You go back and look at something that was done years ago and it was obviously designed for the times, but it doesn't hold up. But I think most of the KISS stuff does hold up still.

KF: I agree, Dennis.
DW: Yeah, you know, I really had that in the back of my mind. "Let's not be too trendy with type styles that come and go [and] colors that come and go, [and] silly ideas that come and go." So for these solo albums, I said, "OK. Timeless and classic." And I sort of right away knew that they would have to be portraits of each guy. I just couldn't imagine any other image on there even though I tried. Because portraits was one of the first ideas that came into my head, I said, "Well, it's got to be their face." I mean now it seems so obvious, in retrospect, to say, "Well, yeah. What else would you have done?" Well you could have done a lot of things. I mean, they could have all looked different -- one from the other. You could have tried to maybe capture each guy's individual personality on it. Or talk to each guy and say, "What do you like? What are your favorite colors?" But that would have been wrong because it really is KISS. KISS is an entity, as a whole. So I kept it that way. Then I said, "OK, portraits. That's a given. But let me keep thinking." I kept thinking and I said, "Maybe it should be their whole body standing there? Their whole figure. Hmmm ... no." (laughs) Because then you have costumes and that comes and goes and that becomes dated where you could point at it and say, "Oh, 1978." So I didn't do that. And so I went back to portraits. I think this was a key decision -- when I decided not to do a photograph.

KF: I've always wondered if photos of the band members were ever a consideration.
DW: Yeah, I don't know why, because of the "classic" feeling that I was trying to put across, I thought it would be better served by illustration. You know, a photo is just not the same as art.

KF: And even though a photo can be classic, maybe it doesn't have that timeless appeal that, say, a piece of art does.
DW: Yep, there's no question about it. I said, "OK, art." And so then the task became to find the artist. And we found him in the usual way that we searched for artists back in the day. We had these art directors annuals that came out once a year, the best in advertising. There were the illustrator annuals put out by the Society of Illustrators -- the best in illustration that year. Grafische had an annual that [contained] everything illustration, graphic design, photography. There's another one, Communication Arts, CA, that came out and had all the best of that year in advertising, illustration and photography. In one of those annuals we saw Eraldo Carugati's work. It was something he did for "Playboy." It was very realistic. But could he do likenesses of somebody? He obviously had the chops to paint realistically but I didn't know if he could pull off a mood, a likeness, [and] all these other things that he would have to do.

KF: I've looked at his credits and he did do the painting for the album cover for Rush's 1975 album "Fly By Night."
DW: I had no idea. I don't think he ever said anything to us about it either.

The man who painted the solo album portraits: Eraldo Carugati

KF: So when you came across his work, Eraldo Carugati was a new name to you?
DW: Absolutely. I had never heard of him.

KF: Was there ever another artist in contention?
DW: I think there was another artist that we asked to do a rough. And I cannot for the life of me ever remember who that was. I just can't remember. And that rough was floating around somewhere too. I actually saw it somewhere, but I don't know where. It was a long time ago.

KF: I don't think I remember seeing that.
DW: Well, you know, it's neither here or there really. But Eraldo did a layout.

KF: You would have gotten in touch with Eraldo?
DW: Yeah. He didn't have an agent, I don't think. So I didn't have to go through an agency.

KF: And was he receptive about doing the project from the outset?
DW: Totally. He was a good guy. He was in his late 50s when he did that. He had an Italian accent. He was from Italy.

KF: Apparently, he spoke multiple languages, including Italian, English, French, and German.
DW: I didn't know that. He was a really good guy. He told me that he refereed soccer games on the weekend. I couldn't get over that, because he was about 57 at the time. He was in great shape, good health, and he ran around refereeing soccer games. But he was in Chicago. So we had to fly out to Chicago and talk to him out there. He worked at a big company -- the name of which also escapes me. I don't know what his relationship was there. [Editor's Note: Carugati worked for Stephens, Biondi and DeCicco, a Chicago-based commercial art and photography studio.] I think he may have rented space in the company and also did work for them when need be. It was an old-fashioned set up, the kind of thing they used to have in the '40s or '50s where you have a graphic design company and under the same roof there would be a little photography studio, there would be guys who could do very realistic renderings of products -- you know cars and a can of beans, whatever they were selling. Then down the hall would be the retoucher and the airbrush guy. Then around the corner would be the guy that did pastel mockups and renderings. They had to use pastels before they used magic markers -- it was unbelievable work. I used to see this when I was first coming into the business. That's the kind of place it was. And It was huge; it had a couple of floors. And he sat there, he had this space in there where he did the KISS work. And like I said, I don't know if Eraldo got all the money or if he had to split that with them because he was working with them or for them, or if he just rented space from them. I really never got that straight.

KF: I have to be candid, it seems information on Eraldo Carugati is pretty scarce.
DW: Yeah, I know. You can find some of his paintings that he did. He did sort of realistic landscapes, which I understand they were all destroyed in a fire.

KF: That's too bad.
DW: Yeah, I read that somewhere. So anyway, we went out there to [Chicago to] look at the work in progress. And it was coming along beautifully. It wasn't done or anything. He didn't know what to do with the bottom, like the neck area. He was just kind of ending it sharply and abruptly. I said, "Oh no Eraldo, we've got to do something about that. That's got to fade it to black. Fade to black." And he couldn't do that with the technique that he was using, he was just using little paint brushes. So he took it down the hall -- I went with him (laughs) -- and he talked it over with the airbrush guy and the airbrush guy probably did a little bit on there while I was watching, just to see if it would work. And I said, "Yeah, that's going to be it. That's going to be beautiful. They'll just fade into the background from the neck down." Because it would have ended abruptly, it would have looked horrible. So he did that. And it really was classy and beautiful.

KF: Was Eraldo given anything as a guide? I think lore has it that the solo album images were inspired by either the embossed gatefold images in "Double Platinum" or the images on the cover of the 1977-78 tourbook.
DW: I tell you, you're going to know about as much as I know. I don't remember exactly -- now obviously we had to give him something to look at. You can't do this out of your head. Now what exact pictures I gave him? Your guess is as good as mine. If you look around and see something that looked just like those pictures, that's the one we gave them (laughs). I think you're right about the "Double Platinum" ones. That's probably the best pictures we had of them, full face, laying around.

KF: Would you recall about how long it took Eraldo to finish the job?
DW: I would only be guessing if I told you, and I'd rather not. I mean, it wasn't an inordinate long amount of time. He was a professional. He really knew how to approach these things. He didn't have to doodle around and scratch his head and say, "Hmm, what do I do next?" He knew. He knew how to approach these things. And he was excellent.

KF: What type of paint did he use?
DW: It was like a gouache. It's a water-color. It comes in little tubes and it's water soluble. That's what he used. So if you took the original and spilled something on them, it'd be all over.

KF: And about how large were each of the paintings?
DW: 24 inches square, give or take. About twice the size of an album.

KF: And on a canvas?
DW: No, on a kind of illustration board.

KF: Of course, the colors are very striking and help given each painting a unique feel. Were different colors part of the original instructions?
DW: Yeah. Early on, I think this is even before I did the "Alive!" album, which was the first one I did. Bill Aucoin said, "Dennis, we're going to put out these little trinkets for the fans. It's going to be each guy's signature done in metal. And it will be a pin and fans could wear it." It was just made out of crappy, silver-colored metal. It came out in a little cardboard card, and the cards hang on a hook in the store, that sort of thing. And maybe blister-packed, I don't know. And he said, "Can you design those for us? Like a Gene Simmons signature pin [with] KISS logo?" I said, "Sure." And he said, "It's one color because it's a cheap job." I said, "OK. Just a simple one-color [job] with some simple typography on there." And so I'm starting to lay it out, put the KISS logo on it and the signature. And I said, "Well, it's one color but there's four separate ones. Do they all have to be the same color? Or could each one be a different color?" So I go back and said, "Look, I don't think it's going to make any difference, cost-wise, because maybe they'll be run at different times. Let's make each guy one color." He said, "Yeah, that's OK." I went back and had to think, "What guy gets what color?" That was the very first time where I assigned colors to each guy. So I said, "OK, Gene's going to be red because he splits blood and he has fire. So he's red." He was easy. And I said, "Ace? Blue." Space, the sky -- I don't know, Ace and blue made sense. And then I said, "OK, green for the jungle cat." And I did not know what to do for Paul (laughs). I scratched my head for a while on that one. I said, "Actually, we don't know what Paul is (laughs). We know who everybody else is, but we don't know what he is. He's got a star on his face, what the fuck is that? (laughs) "Oh, he's the lover. Oh, I see." I said, "What the hell is that?" I said, "Purple. Purple is passion."

"Gene Simmons"
Art by Eraldo Carugati

KF: Right.
DW: So there we go. We got that. They became the little colors on these cardboard cards that held their signature pins. And that was it. I didn't have to think about that for years until we did the solo albums and I'm standing with Eraldo, and I said, "You know, they have black backgrounds that they're on, and their hair is black. So they're going to be back-lit. So the hair picks up a fringe of color like a halo." He was going to originally just do them all with a yellow-ish light, as though it was really back-lit, like in a photograph. And I said, "No, no, no. Gene is going to have a red glow," and it came back to me, the colors that I had assigned to them. So I told him, and that's how that happened on the solo albums. And it's all these little things that pop into your head at the right time that really make it work. because I could have forgotten that, it was four years ago. We never talked about each guy having his own color since that time I did those little pins. But I'm standing there and I'm talking to him and we're talking about back-lighting, and I said, "Oh, wait a minute..."

KF: It's just the perfect icing on the cake. I can't even imagine the album covers without the colors.
DW: There's no question, yeah.

KF: How many times did you go out to meet with Eraldo Carugati? Was it a series of meetings?
DW: I went out there one time to see the work in progress, to make sure it was coming along OK. Because I was worried. I was worried all the way to the end because to me this was a huge job. It had to be right. And I was happy with what I saw, very happy. So I came back to New York and he said, "I'll deliver them in two weeks." Eraldo came to New York with all the art and blew us away. They were so wonderful.

KF: The first time you laid eyes on them, was it a "wow" moment?
DW: Yes, because he had enough of it rendered realistically that I knew that we really had something great here. Although it wasn't done yet. So I was, let's say, very optimistic. When he delivered them, that was the end of the story. I was over the moon. I said, "This stuff is fantastic." I walked into Howard Marks' office and I showed it to him. Everybody was just floored. Even if you look at those things -- you can probably see them on the reproductions, if you get a good reproduction -- their eyes look wet. They're just rendered so beautifully.

KF: They feel very alive.
DW: I tell you, it's a feeling you can't get with a photograph.

"Paul Stanley"
Art by Eraldo Carugati

KF: There is just something about these images that is indescribable.
DW: It's hard to put it into words. It's a special quality that comes out. And the thing is, when you look at them now, like we both said, it's hard to imagine it any other way. But it came out of nothing. It came out of zero. All these decisions had to be made. "It's going to be a portrait." "Oh, well that's obvious." No it isn't. It's not obvious. I could have had Gene standing on a mountain top, howling at the moon. We could have put Paul in a harem full of girls, you know. And he's had that picture before. We could have done all those sort of fantasy things, but that would have been ... not so great.

Of course, the story I always tell about Eraldo is Gene didn't always have the dribble of blood when he first brought it in. Now, I'll be perfectly honest, I don't remember who or how that suggestion came out, that Gene needed a little something extra. Maybe it was Bill Aucoin, who was standing there looking at them. I don't think it was me, but it was a long time ago (laughs). [Someone] said, "Well, Gene needs a little something extra. He spits blood onstage." And so Eraldo actually had, in his pocket, a little piece of cardboard. It was a palette where he had dried up globs of paint on it. You know, they were dry. They come alive when you add water. And he had a tiny skinny brush in his pocket. And Eraldo always wore a jacket and a tie. He was a real gentleman. Even when he worked, I think he just rolled up his sleeves, and he had a tie on. Old-school, very European in a way. And he takes out the brush and he said, "Can I have a little water?" We gave him a little thing full of water and he dips it in. He had some red on the palette, he brought that back to life with the water. And he just starts painting right on the painting. I mean, he doesn't do like a little pencil outline.

KF: He went right at it?
DW: Oh my God. I'm walking away, looking out the window. I'm saying, "Oh, fuck me. He's going to screw it up now." And I kept walking back and taking a peek at it. And like a magician, out of nowhere, boom, this beautiful little drop of blood with the shadow and the highlight on it. I said, "Oh, man. This is too good."

KF: That little nuance really makes Gene's portrait. It's absolutely perfect.
DW: Yep. And it was. He didn't make it big, he didn't overdo it. It was just right. I then said, "Hey Eraldo, you want some coffee?" He says, "Yeah." I said, "How do you take it?" He said, "Black like my soul." (laughs)

KF: (laughs)
DW: That was the first time I ever heard that phrase (laughs). Eraldo was a great man and I really, really enjoyed working with him. I wish I could see him again, just to hug him or something. You know, he was so good.

KF: So you all are blown away at the final product. Did the band come in and see them at that point?
DW: You know, I don't remember that meeting. You think I would. But I just don't quite remember that specifically. So anything I told you would be like conjecture. Like, "Yeah, we showed it to them and they loved it."

KF: I would think that they would have been floored as well. Plus, the solo album art have been used on so many pieces of KISS merchandise over the years.
DW: Because they hold up. And they look just like them. They're great likenesses. The other thing that's unique about them is the logo, which I changed for just that project.

KF: With the portraits out of the way, how did you approach the logo and the typography?
DW: I wanted to make the solo albums a little bit unique, a little different from a KISS album because they weren't, they were just each individual guy. And so I just turned it into the skeletal basics of the logo, to put it that way: the double outline with no solid filled in letter. And I also thought that would give it a sophisticated look.

KF: To me, the logo feels subtle on these album covers.
DW: Yeah, that's good.

KF: The likenesses are really the focus, and the logo is just hanging there in the top-left corner. When you consider the context, it's a brilliant combination.
DW: We didn't want to draw too much attention to it. It has to be there. I wanted to make it different because this was a different project -- it wasn't a KISS album. It was one-quarter of a KISS album, so one-quarter of a KISS album maybe (laughs).

KF: How about the font that was used on the back cover?
DW: It's extended. It's an extended font. There are two fonts that are almost identical and it's one or the other. But I think it's Euro style. But it could be Mircogramma (laughs). But Euro style is easier to find. It's probably Euro style. Some guy called me up and he did a tribute to Eric [Carr] or somebody, and he had an illustration done of his own face. Some KISS fan made the album. And I remember he called me up and he asked me that, "What was that font?" And that was the first time I had to go back and remember.

KF: Aside from Gene, did any of the others have any other last-minute modifications?
DW: Really he was the only one. The other ones were done man. It was such an easy job, really. I guess we went through the proper steps along the way to make sure everything was going to come out the way we thought it should. So there were no surprises: "Oh, I didn't think you were going to have that that way," or anything like that. None of that happened. Because we talked about it all the way through, step by step. Visiting him in Chicago helped because we solved the fading thing, on the spotlight there, because that was not something you could anticipate until you saw the artwork. And you say, "Wait a minute, that can't end abruptly like that." We had no surprises. He did such an excellent job. Everybody looked at it, they loved what they looked like. And they were done. There was no going back and saying, "Can you fix my eye? My nose looks funny..." None of that. Anytime you try and do a portrait of somebody, you know that's going to happen -- it happened on "Rock And Roll Over." But those changes were good changes that we made on "Rock And Roll Over." They were right. Paul was right, "My nose looks funny. This looks funny. That looks funny." He made good suggestions.

KF: I've always wanted to ask this question: In looking close at Ace's face, it seems one eye is lower than the other. Have you ever noticed this?
DW: I don't think I ever noticed that, no.

KF: Paul's face is tilted slightly, so one is naturally lower. But Ace seems to be looking straight ahead, and it just looks like one eye is slightly lower.
DW: Let me try and find this on my computer (laughs). Here it is. Oh yeah, [it's] really lower. I never paid much attention to that. Yeah, that's funny. Huh, maybe his eye is lower in real life, who knows? (laughs) I've always loved the way he rendered that silver. Oh my God. You can see the flesh through the silver, you know.

KF: Yeah, Ace's is tremendous. Dennis, are you even able to pick a favorite out of the four?
DW: You know, I like Ace. I think Peter looks fantastic too.

"Peter Criss"
Art by Eraldo Carugati

KF: You can see more of Peter's costume compared to the others.
DW: Maybe it's that silver nose that gets me. And I like that pose, Peter's pose, looking down a little bit. That looks pretty good. Let me look at the others real quick. (pauses) They're all remarkable in their own way.

KF: It's a tough question. I think I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favorite.
DW: Paul has a lot of hair going on there. That's all done a stroke at a time with a little brush. One at a time, hair by hair.

KF: Amazing.
DW: Yep. Beautiful.

KF: So once you had the final album art, what was the process of getting these onto album covers?
DW: The printing process back then -- some of it is still the same; a little bit of it is different now with computers. You would take artwork like that and you would send it out for somebody to shoot photographs of [them]. And we used a 8x10 camera, a large film camera. So the film would actually be one piece of film, which was 8x10 inches. So it's a large transparency, just like a slide, but huge. So it was a positive image on film, and you really got beautiful, vibrant colors. They would just shoot it and they would bracket their exposures to make sure that they got it exactly right, and you'd get the exact right one. You'd look at it with a magnifying glass when you got it back to make sure it was all sharp and perfectly exposed, the colors were just exactly right, and that they didn't shift or change. And once you picked out the best photo of each one, we had to make a mechanical. A mechanical is a piece of cardboard, illustration board, [on which] you would lay out the album cover. So it was 12 inches square, then there was a little eighth-inch spine on it, then there was the back cover. And that was printed on the same piece of paper at the same time. So when you layed it out, you had yourself a 24-inch wide thing, with an eighth-inch spine and then various for bleed so the ink can go off the edge. And you sent out that photograph of the guy's face. You sent it out to size, you sized it up to be what size it was going to be on the album cover. It came back black-and-white photostat. Photostat is not even a good photograph, it's very down-and-dirty -- it's only for position. And you'd put rubber cement on the back, cut it out, stick it down in the exact position on the 12x12. Then you'd send out your KISS logo and get that sized exactly the size you want it. And you'd stick that down sometimes right on the photostat, sometimes on an acetate overlay. And you'd get the typography for the back. You'd send out and get all the type set because you couldn't do that in house, they had type shops that did that. And they would send back the type in a reproduction quality print of the type. You'd put glue on the back, cut it out, stick it down where you wanted it. Every little piece of type had to be done that way. And then with a tracing paper -- or vellum overlay -- you would give the printer instructions. "The logo drops out of the four-color photo in white. The name drops out white out of all four plates." You would make a big X on the photograph, and you'd say, "This is four-color art A." Then you'd mark the transparency A. And on the back you would say, "This is 100-percent black. Type drops out white. This is red made out of 100 percent magenta and 100 percent yellow. This is blue made out of 50 percent cyan and 10 percent black." And so on. All these handwritten instructions. And you had to know about printing -- you had to know the process so you could give instructions, and I did. And that's how it was done. It was a big pasted up, what we called a mechanical. Everything that ever got printed had to be done that way. Ads for magazine, anything.

KF: That sounds like quite the process.
DW: Razor blades, rubber cement, T squares, triangles, rulers, erasers -- all kinds of graphic equipment. There were ruling pens so you could make straight lines with black india ink. All sorts of equipment -- we kept the art stores in money.

"Ace Frehley"
Art by Eraldo Carugati

KF: I bet.
DW: We had big drawers full of these illustration boards, which were high-quality boards. They were expensive. Tracing pads and vellum pads and acetate pads and on and on and on -- we had a room full of equipment.

KF: Would Eraldo have been paid a flat fee for this work?
DW: Yeah, sure. Whatever it was. He got paid. We bought the art outright and that was the end of the story.

KF: Typically a painter signs his name at the bottom of a piece of art. But there's no signature on these. Was that not considered?
DW: That's a good question. I've never thought of that. That's a good one. I think Eraldo was an ego-less guy. He did not have a big ego. He knew he was good and that was all. He didn't need to go any further than that. And he also, I think, felt "this is a commercial product. You don't sign that. I'm just an artisan, I'm a craftsman here, providing a service." No more, no less. I just think that's the way he approached it.

KF: Of course, the solo albums kept up the tradition of featuring KISS goodies inside, with the interlocking posters.
DW: Oh yeah, the posters were done by David Byrd. Actually the work he did for us on that KISS job is not his best work. He's done other work that was so beautiful. I think David was sick when he was doing that. I think he was not feeling well at all. And he had assistants helping him and everything. I think he was struggling with that.

KF: Those posters were designed specifically to be interlocking, so when you put them all together, it forms a mural.
DW: Well, it's another marketing ploy. In other words, if you buy one, obviously there are parts missing to your poster because of the interlocking deal, so you have to go out and buy all the rest to make one complete poster. It was just another way to get you to buy all four records.

KF: There was also some promo materials that were sent to record stores.
DW: I do remember some kind of mobile or hanging posters.

KF: How about the actual original paintings? Where would those be?
DW: Yeah, probably each guy has their own.

KF: I would hope that they would.
DW: Right. Then of course we eventually did one for Eric when he joined the band. Just for no reason really, just to make Eric happy, I guess.

"Solo album" art for Eric Carr
Art by Eraldo Carugati

KF: I've seen the Eric one. There's also a solo album-esque rendering of Vinnie Vincent that I've seen out there. Have you seen that one?
DW: I guess ... I vaguely remember that. You know, I had nothing to do with that. I had nothing to do with that. And I had very little to do with Eric's. Very little. What happened very often is I find these artists, I supervise the jobs from zero, get it going and then Bill Aucoin would just like make a phone call to Eraldo later because he figures he could do that and he'll go and have something done. And he didn't feel like he had to come back through me again.

KF: So Eraldo did paint the Eric Carr portrait?
DW: Oh yeah.

KF: That would have been 1980, maybe 1981.
DW: Right. But Vinnie Vincent, I have no idea what happened there. I don't know where that came from.

KF: That could be a fan creation.
DW: Maybe, I just don't know.

"Solo album" art for Vinnie Vincent
A fan creation

KF: Not ringing a bell?
DW: I don't know why -- maybe they were just trying to make each band member happy by doing that. But it seems a little silly. It doesn't have any reason to exist really.

KF: As we discussed, KISS were breaking new ground by releasing four simultaneous, cohesive solo albums. Do you recall about the huge amount of publicity surrounding the solo albums?
DW: Just only in general, I remember. And really starting in 1976 from "Destroyer," when they really got huge, and on for the next two or three years. You know, KISS was big. They were always mentioned on TV. They were here, there and everywhere. I remember "Saturday Night Live" doing a little [skit with] Dan Akroyd.

KF: John Belushi too.
DW: Yeah, yeah. So they were just everywhere. And we were working for the most famous band in the world. It was pretty cool. I'll tell you, I walked out of the office one day on Madison Avenue, I was going to lunch. I had long hair and a big mustache -- it was the '70s, you know what I mean?

KF: (laughs)
DW: And I was walking out of the office and there's two young boys, I don't know 12, 13 years old maybe. And they're both wearing KISS T-shirts so I said, "Nice shirts, where'd you get 'em?" They told me where they got them. And they were nice. I hadn't designed them, I guess the marketing people did [or] the merchandising people. So I said, "Nice shirts." And I was going to continue walking. And they said, "Hey stop, who are you? Who are you?" I said, "I'm nobody." (laughs) He said, "No come on, who are you?" I said, "Well, sometimes I design these guys' album covers." He said, "You're Dennis Woloch." I said, "Wow!" That's when I knew KISS was famous. (laughs) And they made me sign an autograph and that sort of made my day. I said, "Holy shit, I'm an art director and I'm signing an autograph."

KF: (laughs) Dennis, Casablanca's costs for the solo albums were very high, with the recording and advertising campaign estimated at $4 million. Do you remember anyone thinking that the entire project was a bit overboard?
DW: (laughs) Yeah, I really don't know what to say about that. We were, if nothing, about excess.

KF: When the smoke cleared, KISS fans liked some of the albums, others not as much. Paul and Ace's albums seemed to have more traction with fans, musically speaking, while Peter and Gene's were considered radical departures.
DW: Peter always saw himself as a different kind of an artist, rather than a pure rock guy.

KF: In hindsight, the solo albums sold fairly well, but expectations were so high that "fairly well" wasn't good enough. Neil Bogart essentially shipped them all platinum and when all the albums didn't sell initially, it attached a stigma of failure to the project.
DW: (pauses) Yeah, I guess they overshot. But what are you going to do? They were kind of on top of the world at that point, and maybe that was the beginning of not being on top of the world. I think shortly after that a lot of their popularity started to go down the tubes.

KF: That's true.
DW: They were really only huge for three years, I guess. And then it sort of faded away a little bit, and then it came back, et cetera. Gene has a lot of thank yous, doesn't he? (laughs)

KF: Yeah he sure does. He has everyone on his album and it seemed he wanted to thank the world.
DW: Well I know when I made the thank you list that he was overdoing it.

KF: He even thanks Lassie.
DW: Yeah, whoever he liked as a kid.

KF: Dennis, you've recounted a positive experience with Eraldo Carugati and have been highly complimentary of the solo album art. Does this project hold a special place in your career?
DW: I would say so. It was a big deal at the time. I think I did the exact right job for those guys when I did that. I really do. So I feel very confident in saying that they really couldn't have been much better. I think they really solved, if you want to call it a problem, and met the expectations. I think they did what they really had to do, in a very beautiful way, thanks to Eraldo. Thank our lucky stars that we found the right guy. He just did a miracle job. I'm sure Eraldo never heard of KISS. I loved using these artists or illustrators that never did an album cover before. That was always fun for me. Like I don't think Michael Doret ever did an album cover and he certainly didn't know who the hell KISS was when he did that. He never heard of them.

KF: Are the solo album portraits the most iconic images in KISStory?
DW: (pauses) That or "Destroyer." "Destroyer" because it shows them in their full figure glory, you know the vision of their whole bodies. And then the solos because they're classic, they're really strong images and they're never going to look old. They're just always going to look just the way they look. They're really, really cool. I'm proud of them.

(KissFAQ thanks Dennis Woloch for his time and contribution to Back In The Solo Album Groove, our 35th anniversary retrospective dedicated to the 1978 KISS solo albums.)

About Dennis Woloch
An employee of Glickman/Marks Management Corp., Woloch served as the art director for KISS from 1975-1987. Woloch oversaw art direction for several graphically iconic KISS albums, including "Alive!," "Destroyer," "Rock And Roll Over," the 1978 solo albums, and "Creatures Of The Night." For the solo albums, Woloch secured the services of artist Eraldo Carugati and worked closely with him to see the artwork come to fruition. Aside from KISS, Woloch has also designed albums for artists such as Diana Ross, Starz and Peter Gallway. Today, Woloch designs albums, logos, advertising campaigns, books, and more under the auspices of his own company, Dennis Woloch Design.